MQM Yet To Learn Elementary Media Management
Mustafa Kamal, one of the key figures in MQM, a coalition government partner in Islamabad, called a hurried press conference last night to deny his party’s close ties to US government. Net result? He failed. Here’s why.
It was more of a case of brawn than brain.
Last night, MQM managed to browbeat 10 television channels into broadcasting live the entire news conference of Mr. Mustafa Kamal for more than an hour but it could not
convincingly deny the accusations of Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza.
Even after so many years, MQM does not know how to make the best use of media. Some points:
DURATION. Mustafa did not realize that brevity was the soul of wit. Expanding to more than an hour what he could state in just 15 minutes destroyed the impact.
RELEVANCE. Mustafa should have confined himself to the specific accusations of Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza. Talking on and on about subjects not related to the accusations diverted viewers’ attention.
OMISSION. In his zeal, he forgot to touch on some very relevant topics. For example, when will MQM rejoin the government (again!).
AUDIENCE. MQM may bring a horse to water but cannot make it drink. Even the interested viewers could not watch the news briefing when it went on and on until about midnight. The poor news reporters may be a captive audience but viewers are not.
TIME. Holding a briefing during prime time is a sure way to antagonize media. If you deprive it of millions of rupees, never expect it to love you. Even in off-peak hours, for best impact a news briefing must not go beyond 30 minutes. It must start at half hour and end on the hour. For example, if it starts at 0930, it must end before the news headlines at 1000.
Heavens would not have fallen if the news conference had been postponed until next morning, say around 10:00. If MQM could wait for more than a week before responding to accusations, why not a few hours more? Had it done so, it could have accrued the following advantages:
a) Mustafa Kamal could get more time to read and rehearse the script. He could then look straight into the camera, rather than fumbling with papers and even mispronouncing the name of Balochistan politician Lashkari Raisani. He would have also not appeared under the influence.
b) The television channels could have repeated what Mustafa said the whole day until their main news bulletins at 2100, allowing viewers to catch it even if they were away from television.
c) Channels could get the views of commentators.
d) Newspaper reporters could have had more time to write their stories, instead of being hurried at midnight, close to deadline.
e) The talk show hosts (and their guests) could have more time to digest what Mustafa said and make sense of it before starting the show in the evening at the scheduled time.
CONCLUSION. The briefing did not convince the media and the viewers that MQM is right. MQM should take two simple steps to disprove Zulfiqar Mirza’s accusations:
a) The two persons, who were with Altaf Husain and were asked to leave the room during his controversial meeting with Mirza, should come before the media, place the Holy Qur’an on head and deny Mirza’s claim.
b) Altaf Husain should write a letter to the present British Prime Minister, asking him to deny (after referring to the record) that he wrote to Tony Blair in September 2001. It is as simple as that.